Geetanjali Mukherjee

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Secret Selves

I was thinking, I don’t really want to die with people having a wrong idea of me. Not knowing who I really am. I don’t know if anyone knows who I really am. I think my mom knows partially, as does a couple of my best friends, but not fully. When they read my journals, I guess they might know more. But beyond that, I don’t know. No one will know my great ideas for peace, or how passionate I was about game theory or behavioral economics. I think if not for any other reason, but to set the record straight about who I am, I need to write, write my soul. I am afraid, yes. And to some extent typing makes it easier, but also makes the words less beautiful, the true essence only comes out on the page. But isn’t it preferable to have books of imperfect prose which is actually printed than to have potentially beautiful works in the ether?

The son of one of my mom’s friends died recently, in a car accident. And he was described as vibrant, full of life. How is it that almost everyone who dies young was ‘vibrant’? Is it because we are too afraid to express how they really were, just ordinary, as good or bad as the rest of us? Or is it that we feel bad that they are dead, and since so many people die everyday, and we give no thought to them, so we think, there has to be a reason why we feel bad about this one. I don’t know. I am sure he was a great guy. And I am sure his family and friends really did know him. But did they know all of him? I am sure all of us have secret selves, inner parts of us that maybe we don’t actually keep secret, but we are too afraid to share with others. And then no one really gets to know that part of us. Instead they see the stressed out, nervous, anxious version, our public self. This week my resolution is to let more of my secret self show, just in case.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Career Tracks

My last post was about making the decision to take a particular course, and I have still been thinking about those issues. I was reading in a human resources magazine that one senior executive believed that you cannot plan your career, it just happens.

Yesterday, talking to some practicing lawyers, we were talking about how for most people, it is simply about jumping through a set of hoops - best undergrad, best law school, best law firm, making partner - that sort of thing. There is tremendous pressure to get through the right hoops, and in a way your entire career is planned out for you. And there really is no room to stop and contemplate, is this what I really want?

I was thinking - where does the line begin between so planned as to stifle creativity, and so open-ended that you might end up not having a clue as to where you are headed? Any thoughts?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Favourite Inspiring Quotes

These are some of my favourite inspiring quotations, that have helped me get through tough times, or times when I found it difficult to believe that the path I was on was the right one. In light of my previous post, I was looking for inspiration, and was reminded of these words:

"The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore."
–Dale Carnegie

"My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others. That is nice but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success."
-Helen Hayes

"To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to."
-Kahlil Gibran

"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."
-Orison Swett Marden

And my absolute favourite:

“Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.”
-William Ward

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is Passion Overrated?

My mother and I were discussing certain movie stars and then talking about how they don’t particularly care what they have to do to make their movie work, what demeaning work, how they make fools of themselves to sell their movies. How they don’t do 'meaningful' cinema, and yet they make millions, have a good time, travel around the world, and eventually even get feted by those who do ‘meaningful’ work.

Our problem, or specifically, my problem is that I am too obsessed with image, how something will look, etc. Since I was a child, I had ambitions of being a public figure and wanting to do something with my life, and hence was very mindful of how something would later look, or what people would say if they saw that I had done such-and-such work. I am always confused when thinking about writing books what impact they may have on my image if I want to work for a corporation – what will they say about my actions? I even stopped myself from writing a blog previously because I was afraid that I might say something that would later be construed as something else. In none of this was I being untrue to myself, but I somehow thought it would not fit the image someone else might have of me.

This is such a problem – people create images of us, that we ‘should’ behave in a certain manner, that we cannot possibly combine one sort of profession with another, that in order to be successful in something, we must abandon something else. In the world however, there are many who break the stereotypes. Condoleeza Rice was both the Secretary of State and an acclaimed pianist. There are many athletes and actors who also own restaurants. The problem I perceive with myself is that my interests seem to clash. I want to be a writer, of biographies, and I want to write and research topics on peace and conflict, and I also want to work as a consultant, for businesses. These seemingly disparate topics are all close to my heart and I somehow cannot decide which one or two to cut off, to be able to focus my interests in fewer areas. I could be a full-time writer, or writer part-time till I could afford to do it full-time, holding down an undemanding job in the meantime. Or I could work for a consulting firm, but I would not then have time for anything else. And if I really wanted just to focus on peace, I could do a PhD or work for an international NGO in the area I am interested in. But as you can see, being interested in all three poses a bit of a dilemma, one that I cannot begin to solve.

What then is the solution? Is passion for one’s work overrated? Are we born to do one specific thing, or can we do just about anything as long as it brings home the bacon? Should I be glad that at least there is one thing I love, and pick whatever is most lucrative and get on with it? Or find a way to tie all my passions together? Am I perhaps deluding myself that something is a passion when it might only be a phase? How does one find out? 

I would love comments on the subject, as as of now, I have no concrete answers.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Breakdown of Technology

Although its the start of 2011, in my household its almost like the beginning of 1990 as far as technology is concerned. With a strange coincidence that in fiction would be considered bad writing, all our household appliances and gadgets seem to have given up their ghosts simultaneously. My mobile battery is dying, and my mom's charger has gone kaput, which means effectively we are back to that delicious time when you did not have to remember to switch off your phone everytime you entered a movie theater or a meeting, or face the ignominy of glaring faces whilst your cell bleats a decidedly uncool tone.

With a touch of irony, one of our two landlines are also dead, which means our connection to the world is hanging on by a thread. A fiber-optic thread. As if this were not enough, our TV keeps switching off in the middle of a program, and even when it manages to remain on, the display flickers and crackles, reminding one of those old black-and-white TVs that barely transmitted legible images. Additionally, my mom's laptop screen needs replacing, and until then, she is using my old laptop, which is a nightmare to type on as the cursor skips around the screen like a bunny on drugs.

Whilst these gadgets can be fixed or new ones bought, I started thinking about all the different technologies and gadgets that need upkeep - mobiles, blackberrys, laptops, netbooks, mp3 players, the list is long. Between my parents and me, we have 5 laptops, one PC, two MP3 players, 5 mobiles and 4 TVs. Whilst this may seem either acquisitive or decadent to others, most of these gadgets support ones that work partially or not too well, but can't be replaced for whatever reason. Most of us nowadays have work phones and personal phones, laptops for home and office, multiple music systems and TVs in different rooms. Whilst they are great for making life easier, or at any rate give the semblance of doing so, when they breakdown we often feel surprised, as if the machine has betrayed us by refusing to cooperate. I cannot imagine a return to the past without these technologies, but over-reliance on them might be just as counterproductive.

Starting Out

It's a new year, and time for fresh starts and new beginnnings, an opportunity to leave the past behind, learn from my mistakes and find fresh pastures. Hi everyone and a happy new year. This is my third blogging attempt over the years, and I sincerely hope that this one will stick. I had written a blog during my college days, but my privileges ran out when I graduated and I had to abandon it. My second attempt was after college, but starting my Masters led me to post about once a year, and invariably, that went nowhere.

The reason I am starting afresh is because I realised in the past few months that whatever else I may do, I am a writer at heart. Perhaps this is a realization I should have arrived at long ago, but I was raised to aspire to a career that had a proven path, that zoomed upward at frequent intervals, not something that caused me to shut myself off in a room and type. I thus pursued other interests, always writing on the side, never believing that meant that I could be an actual writer, like the ones whose books I read. This year my resolution is to move beyond labels, even though society at every turn is desperate to label us, and even blogger wants me to provide labels for this post. Whether I call myself a writer or not is not important, what is important is whether I am writing everyday. For me, the struggle to be able to write freely is not a struggle against society, or my parents, or any one external factor. It is a struggle against my own mind, which tells me that I can only call myself a writer if I have published successfully, and if I have an impressive enough body of work. I reply to my mind, that arbiter of whether I have permission to write, what Julia Cameron calls the Censor. 'But I have published'. 'Yes, but how successful was it?', replies my Censor?

In the face of such negativity I often crumble, but that is the struggle. To keep writing no matter what. And this does not apply simply to writing. In any endeavour, naysayers will tell you that you can or cannot do something. The challenge is to persevere, and simply prove them wrong. So this year, my resolution is to keep challenge the naysayer in my head, and post about my triumphs and failures in this blog. So watch this space! And tell me about your naysayers, who or what holds you back.
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